Our Islands, Our Future

This summer, middle-school girls statewide had the opportunity to attend Excite Camp, a Women in Technology (WIT) program sponsored by the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB). The mission of WIT is to encourage women and girls to pursue education and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in the state of Hawaii. Excite Camp focuses on today’s most in-demand career fields, combining lectures, hands-on activities, geospatial technologies and on-site tours.

“The last 17 years, Excite Camp has been held on Maui and open to all Maui County middle-school girls,” said Mapu Quitazol, WIT Program Manager. “Three years ago we went statewide, hosting camps on Oahu, Hawaii Island and Molokai, and this year on Kauai. The camp builds confidence and motivates our young ladies with STEM activities, teaching them that they can do anything they set their hearts on. Each island has the same agenda but very different activities and cultural site visits. For example, on Maui we visited Pacific Biodiesel Technologies which produces fuel from sunflowers, Hawaii’s largest biofuel crop project.”

The camp attendance has been kept to 24-30 girls to create a small, intimate group. Each participant joins a group of four and is led by a female mentor. The mentor, who acts as a role model, explains the activities and works with students, helping them feel comfortable in their surroundings. “At the end of the four-day program the girls are no longer strangers, but colleagues and friends,” said Excite Camp mentor Dominie Miyasato. “In addition to getting excited about STEM, they learn the value of teamwork, communication and honoring their island heritage.”

Gracie May Gomes, Lokelani Intermediate School 7th grader, said, “Excite Camp offered so many hands-on activities that forced me to be creative and problem-solve by thinking outside the box. I was so inspired to invent and create new things.” Gomes’ mom, Annie, agreed. “I can’t thank MEDB enough! Excite Camp provided a wonderful opportunity for my daughter and the other girls by revealing the STEM career opportunities available to them right here in Hawaii.”

Excite Camp is successful due to our great community partners who are willing to share their knowledge, time, and resources to come and teach our girls fun, hands-on STEM experiments.

Mapu Quitazol, MEDB WIT Program Manager